07/28/2014 08:58 EDT | Updated 09/28/2014 05:59 EDT

Ross Lockwood Returns To Earth After 4 Months On (Simulated) Mars


An Okanagan-born scientist is enjoying fresh air and real food again for the first time in four months.

Since the end of March, Ross Lockwood had been living with five other researchers in a NASA-built Mars simulator environment on the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii.

On Friday, he finally stepped out of the dome without his survival suit, and came 'back' to life on Earth.

"We didn't get to smell fresh air, or feel wind on our face or sun on our skin and it's all just overwhelming right now," he told CBC News.

Lockwood, originally from Winfield, B.C., says the study, the second one in the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog & Simulation project, is intended to simulate life at a colony on the red planet.

For 120 days, the six researchers lived and worked together in cramped conditions with little contact with the outside world.

Lockwood, now an Edmonton-based PhD candidate, spent much of his time in the dome testing 3-D printed surgical tools. He says working in close quarters with the rest of the team was sometimes challenging.

"Overall it went really well but confinement was one of the main factors driving psychological distress, and crew cohesion issues as well."

Now that the mission is over, Lockwood is happy he can eat something other than dehydrated food.

"The consistency left a lot to be desired," he said Friday. "So this morning for breakfast I requested a big rack of ribs."

Sending a manned mission to Mars is one of NASA's long term goals.

Lockwood says he'd sign up, as long as there's flight home.

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